Gourmet Vanilla Hot Chocolate

Change up your hot cocoa game by adding vanilla sugar to a homemade cocoa mix for elevated flavors! This easy to make Gourmet Hot Chocolate is comforting and delicious. Makes 2 servings, but can easily be made for a group.

Love comforting winter recipes? Be sure to check out my Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup and Instant Pot Macaroni and CheesePomegranate Hot Buttered Rum is perfect for the end of a chilly day!

A woman holds a mug of Gourmet Hot Chocolate, from above

When I was pregnant with our first child, I drank hot chocolate like a boss because coffee wasn’t palatable to me. In fact, I developed this recipe while I was pregnant with her… during a Winter Storm Warning, no less.

I’ve always loved hot chocolate, and there’s something so comforting about it.

There’s something even more wonderful about a homemade hot chocolate. It feels more elegant and gourmet… and it’s actually quite easy to make.

And today, I’m sharing my not-so-secret recipe with y’all for the BEST from-scratch hot cocoa!

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    More unique hot chocolate recipes: Iced CocoaStrawberry White Hot Chocolate /Vanilla Hot Chocolate MartiniPomegranate White Hot Chocolate | Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa

    Ingredients for hot cocoa are shown from above on a gray striped napkin

    What you’ll need to make Gourmet Hot Chocolate

    Disclaimer: The links below are affiliate links. If you click through and take action, I will receive a small commission. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about the affiliate programs The Speckled Palate participates in.

    You will also need vanilla bean sugar… but you can make your own with a vanilla bean, granulated sugar and a 8 oz. mason jar 

    A collage of four images shows how to make vanilla sugar from scratch

    How to make Vanilla Hot Chocolate

    Make the Vanilla Sugar

    I highly suggest making vanilla sugar, even though it’s a PITA to get your hands on a vanilla bean. (I also know it’s not cheap, but trust me: It’s worth the hassle.)

    Measure your sugar into a mason jar.

    Split the vanilla bean down the middle. Using the dull end of your knife, scrape out the seeds/caviar, and drop those into the sugar.

    Use a fork to break apart the seeds/caviar and to spread them into the sugar. Stir for a few minutes until combined.

    Cover and set aside until it’s time to use.

    A collage of four images shows how to measure in the ingredients and how the cocoa looks before heating

    Make the Hot Cocoa

    First and foremost, choose what vessel you’re going to make your hot cocoa in. Since we are heating this in the microwave, I suggest getting a large microwave-safe measuring cup. (This recipe makes two smaller mugs of cocoa, but if you have a giant mug, you could make it in the microwave in that!)

    When you have your hot cocoa bowl ready, pour in the milk.

    Next, measure in the vanilla sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Whisk ‘em together, but don’t fret if they kind of clump on top of the liquid—that’s to be expected at this point, and they will dissolve into the liquid once warm.

    Heat the ingredients in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, then pull them out and stir. (Yes, stirring is important because it gets everything all mixed together. If you skip the stirring, chances are the ingredients in your cocoa aren’t evenly distributed.)

    Heat the cocoa ingredients again—until they’re the right temperature for you. Just be sure not to heat them for more than 45 seconds because you do not want to curdle the milk.

    When the cocoa is the right temperature, remove and pour into glasses.

    Serve ‘em with as many or as few marshmallows as you like, and enjoy warm.

    A collage of two images shows what the hot chocolate should look like when whisked and after heating

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

    Hot chocolate is a wonderful drink to share with friends and neighbors when it’s cold outside! It can also easily be made quickly, so if you have impromptu guests, this recipe is a gem!

    However, if you’re planning on guests in advance and want everyone to enjoy some gourmet hot chocolate, make it in the slow cooker. Simply triple or quadruple the recipe, then heat on low in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours. Use a ladle so guests can serve themselves and decorate their slow cooker hot cocoa with marshmallows.

    More ideas for entertaining with hot cocoa:

    • Make a hot cocoa bar, complete with different toppings. Set out marshmallows, chocolate chips, peppermint and other ingredients so guests can add the flavors they enjoy to their hot chocolate.
    • Spike it with homemade peppermint vodka. Use 1 to 1 ½ oz. per serving, and let your guests add vodka to their own so they can control how much they add. If hosting kids, set the vodka in a different area of your kitchen so the kids don’t think it’s for them.
    • Keep it warm in the slow cooker. Yes, even if you make it in the microwave or on the stovetop, keep it warm this way so guests can enjoy their cocoa at the ideal temperature.
    Gourmet Hot Chocolate is poured into a clear mug on a golden polka dot plate

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What’s so special about the vanilla sugar? It adds a gentle vanilla aroma and flavor to our cocoa. Is it overpowering? No. It’s subtle, but it adds a layer of delicousness.

    Can I make this gourmet hot chocolate without the vanilla sugar? If you don’t want to take the time to make it and don’t purchase it, you can certainly make this recipe with regular granulated sugar. I feel like it’s a little more elevated with the vanilla sugar, but the recipe won’t taste bad without it.

    Can I make this hot chocolate recipe dairy free? Yes, you can. Substitute your favorite type of non-dairy milk for the milk in this recipe, and you’re set. You can make the recipe vegan by using vegan marshmallows, too!

    Should I use Dutch process or regular cocoa? Honestly, you can use either in this recipe because we are not baking.

    Can I make this recipe on the stovetop? Absolutely. It’ll take a little longer, of course, but this can easily be made in a saucepan, too.

    What can I serve alongside this homemade hot chocolate? Dessert is always a great idea… so I suggest something chocolatey. The Best Chocolate CupcakesChocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies would all be delightful when paired with this cocoa.

    A woman drops miniature marshmallows on top of a mug of homemade hot cocoa

    Quick tips for making gourmet hot cocoa

    • Make it dairy free by using your favorite non-dairy milk. (Unsweetened cashew is my fave, but you do you!)
    • Triple the recipe to serve six people. Let everyone add their own marshmallows!
    • If you don’t like cinnamon, add a sprinkle of nutmeg for a hint of warming spice.
    A close up of a Gourmet Hot Chocolate, topped with mini marshmallows
    A woman holds a mug of Gourmet Hot Chocolate, from above

    Gourmet Vanilla Hot Chocolate

    Erin Parker, The Speckled Palate
    Change up your hot cocoa game by adding vanilla sugar to a homemade cocoa mix for elevated flavors! This easy to make Gourmet Hot Chocolate is comforting and delicious.
    4.50 from 2 votes
    Servings 2 servings
    Calories 362 kcal
    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 2 minutes
    Total Time 7 minutes


    Vanilla Sugar (Makes enough for 8)

    Gourmet Hot Chocolate

    • 2 cups milk
    • 3 teaspoons vanilla sugar
    • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • A pinch of ground cinnamon
    • Miniature marshmallows as needed for garnish

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    • Make the Vanilla Sugar
    • Measure out the sugar into a mason jar.
    • Split the vanilla bean down the middle, and scrape out the seeds/caviar.
    • Gently place the seeds/caviar into the sugar.
    • Using a fork, mix the seeds/caviar into the sugar until combined.
    • Set aside until it’s time to use.
    • Make the Gourmet Hot Chocolate
    • Measure out the milk into a large microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup.
    • Measure in the vanilla sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
    • Heat the ingredients for 35 seconds on high, then remove and stir it.
    • Heat for an additional minute, then remove and stir.
    • When the hot chocolate is an acceptable temperature for you, pour into a mug.
    • Top with marshmallows, and enjoy warm.


    Make it dairy free by using your favorite non-dairy milk. (Unsweetened cashew is my fave, but you do you!)
    Triple the recipe to serve six people. Let everyone add their own marshmallows!
    If you don’t like cinnamon, add a sprinkle of nutmeg for a hint of warmth.


    Serving: 1gCalories: 362kcalCarbohydrates: 72gProtein: 9gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 131mgSugar: 58g
    Keyword dessert, drinks, hot chocolate, hot cocoa
    Course Mocktails & Nonalcoholic Drinks
    Cuisine American
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    This post appeared on My Cooking Spot, where I was a contributor.

    The photos and recipe for this Vanilla Hot Chocolate recipe were originally published on February 23, 2015. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on February 17, 2020.

    A woman with dark curly hair wearing a black tank top in front of a white wall

    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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    1. Today is chocolate day!! for sure! I love hot chocolate, specially on a cold winter day… snuggle and watch tv 🙂 Erin, great share! I’m making it soon!

      1. Chocolate day sounds like the best day… Can we make that every day? I love hot chocolate for the very same reason, and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

      1. Hot chocolate really is the best for warming up in the wintertime! This rendition is pretty awesome, too! I totally recommend it. 🙂

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